Monthly Archives: May 2012

Playas del Coco, oh how you’ve changed!

As non-residents of Nicaragua every 6 months Elisha & I are required to leave the country to renew our tourist visas.  Since Elisha’s parents were here visiting and we had friends from Calgary staying at Ocotal beach in Costa Rica the timing for this renewal was great. 

Entering Costa Rica on foot!

Playa Ocotal is the beach where we got married 5 1/2 years ago and Playas del Coco was the place that inspired Elisha & I to move south – so as you can imagine we were quite excited about a return visit.  

Father Rooster Restaurant where we held our wedding 5 1/2 years ago!

When we arrived the changes we saw in the town of a Playa del Coco were more than we had expected.  Once a quaint one-road fishing village with a few restaurants and shops Coco now has a luxury gated community that resembles what you would see in a Canadian or American golf course community.

Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Although many of the same restaurants from our last visit are still there, most have been “gringo-ized”.  Gone are the rough support posts and corrugated roofs that used to be the norm for beach bars.  Everything is more polished now, including the waterfront.  The row of buildings that used to be on the beach has been demolished and replaced with a boardwalk and park area.  The changes are nice, but Coco now lacks some of that rugged charm we so fondly remember.

The new Malecon

The Lizard Lounge by day…

…and by night!

While in Coco we saw more tourists and expats than locals and with the prices in the area I understand why.  Food and drink costs are pretty much on par with what you expect to pay in Canada.

One afternoon we had lunch at Father Rooster.  It’s the one and only beachfront restaurant in Playa Ocotal and the place where held our wedding reception.  We had an appy to share, 4 meals and 6 beer and our bill came to a whopping $96 USD. 

The portions were large, but unfortunately so was our bill!

Two days later we had a similar lunch at Henry’s Iguana Beach Bar & Restaurant in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  The damage for this one?  Just under $40 USD. I noticed a pizza place in Coco advertising $2.50 USD beer – like it’s a deal. Hardly!  I rarely pay more than $1 USD for beer in Nica.

Oddly enough the prices of accommodations in Playas del Coco and surrounding area are similar to those in Nicaragua.  I suspect it’s probably due to overbuilding and subsequent saturation of the rental market.  We chose a large, beautiful two bedroom apartment over looking Ocotal Bay as our place to call home for 3 days.  We were very comfortable at La Loma del Atardecer.

Pools at La Loma del Atardecer

The view of Ocotol Bay from our apartment

It was a 200 meter walk down the hill to the beach where we spent some time relaxing and snorkelling.

Sharing the beach with a lizard.

One thing that hasn’t changed  in Playa Ocotal is the snorkelling.  Right off the shore, a few feet into the water you can see a plethora of fun sea creatures.  3 out of the 4 times I went into the water I was lucky to be able to swim with some eagle rays.

Unfortunately the one time I didn’t see the rays was when I took our friend Beverly out for her 1st ever snorkelling adventure. Although we weren’t able to see the eagle rays we still saw a good assortment of sea life.

A speckled eel

The six of us sitting around our apartment in the evening playing Scrabble felt a little surreal to me.  It was almost like being back in Canada…until I looked out the window.  

Elisha’s parents take the game of Scrabble very seriously. Since her arrival in Nica Elisha’s mom, Rose had been trash talking about winning the first game on our new Scrabble board.  To her surprise Beverly handed out a crushing defeat! Wanting to go out on a high note, Beverly didn’t play the next night which meant Willard and Rose didn’t even have a chance to vanquish their defeat.

Torey pulled out a big pointer – oh & ho!

Good times with friends & family

It was a good trip.  It was great to see Beverly & Torey and nice to check out the area again, but I have to say it sure feels great to be back home to Nica!

Five Hours of Fishing: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Fishing isn’t an activity that I would normally spend a day doing, but Elisha’s Dad Willard is an avid fisherman so we couldn’t bare to watch the fishing boats leave the dock in San Juan del Sur without jumping on one.

While in San Juan we stayed at Gran Oceano hotel for $52 per night.  The rooms were small and basic, but very clean.

Room 103 at Hotel Gran Oceano

Hotel Gran Oceano has huge outdoor garden and pool that was perfect for relaxing while being entertained by Reuben the Yellow Naped Amazon parrot.  He could say “hola” and laugh – which he especially liked to do after biting you.  He could also cry like a baby.

Elisha’s Feathered Friend Reuben

Gran Oceano offers fishing charters at a cost $300 for 5 hours for a boat that can take up to 6 people.  The trip typically ncludes a meal, snacks, beer and soft drinks but since the Gran Oceano boat was already out, the owner set us up with a friend of his at a discounted price of $200. We had to supply our own beer and food, but felt $200 was a real steal.  We were in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica just the day before and the same package was $800.

Serious Fishermen

Sailfish are currently in season.  With the Gran Oceano boat bringing in 4 sailfish and releasing 2 marlin the day before we went out we had high hopes.  Our day started out slow but once the fish started biting the Captain could barely get one fish filleted before we hooked another.

Willard reeled in the 1st one!

I hooked the next.

A proud father holding his daughter’s first fish!

Willard and I pulled in 4 yummy tuna and Elisha brought in a nice dorado.  She did very well considering this was her first time ever deep sea fishing, she had only one eye and Willard, the Captain and I were all yelling instructions at her in two different languages.  Unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to catch any sailfish on this trip, but we sure had a great day out on the ocean!

One Month’s Living Expenses: Granada, Nicaragua

Starting on April 1st Gord and I have tracked every single cordoba we’ve spent through to the end of the month.  To help us with this task we’re using a great little app called iXpenseIt. It’s available on iTunes for $4.99 USD and so far it’s worked great in helping us track our purchases and better manage our money.

Before you ask us why we would bother to take the time to do such a let me explain why. When Gord and I were researching our move to Nicaragua the burning question was,

“How much does it cost to live in Nicaragua?”  

We had difficulty finding the kind of detailed information we were looking for so today’s blog post is dedicated to those of you out there with the same question.

Before jumping right to the numbers I want to share a few important details regarding our lifestyle and the way we chose to live.

  • We are currently renting a brand new studio apartment in Granada, Nicaragua. It is fully furnished and our apartment complex has large saltwater pool, rooftop terrace and too many other amenities to mention.  Although our apartment offers hot water and air conditioning we choose to live without.
  • We own a 2001 Hyundai Galloper that we use for the occasional road trip and out of town travel.  Granada is a very walkable, so that’s how we typically get around.
  • We have no children or pets.
  • We prepare and eat most of our meals in house, but enjoy dining out at least a couple of times per week.  We are also big fans of ice cold Tona and Flor de Cana.

Our targeted budget for this month was $1400 USD.  We know some expats who are living on a lot less and others who are living on much more.  We are very pleased that we managed to end the month off at $1404.51, just $4.51 over budget.

Now onto the numbers…

The table below shows a detailed summary of our expenses by category.  Please note that the exchange rate is based on 23 cordobas per $1 USD.

And for those of you that want even more detail just scroll down the page to review every single purchase we made during the month of April.

If you have any questions regarding the Cost of Living in Nicaragua please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

A Date with a Dr. Blanco

Sunglasses on and medications in hand - I'm so ready for this eye pain to be gone!

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I started feeling some discomfort in my right eye.  The self diagnosis was a scratched cornea. According to the research Gord did an injury like this can take some time to heal.  Not too terribly bothered by the pain I didn’t think it was necessary to see a doctor .

Until 2 days ago…

My eye started feeling worse, instead of better so I called HEALTH Link Alberta and spoke to a nurse.  She asked me a few questions and then recommended I see a doctor within 24 hours.

A bit more than 48 hours after my phone call to the nurse I had an appointment with Dr. Blanco.  He began by taking down my name and age and asking a few questions regarding my medical history.  After taking my weight he had me lie down on the examining table while he listened to my heart, checked my blood pressure, listened to my lungs, checked my abdomen and then looked at my eyes.  He got me to stand up so he could check my back for any problems.  He then made his way back to his desk and confirmed that I was in good health.  There was no dirt, dust or sand in my eye, but as I suspected my cornea is scratched.

Dr. Blanco then pulled out his prescription pad and got down to business.  He wrote me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory called Cataflam and some medicated eye drops called Clodex. He suggested I rest my eye and continue to wear my sunglasses.  He said if my condition doesn’t improve after 1 week I should come back to see him.

Do you have your doctor's home telephone number, cell phone number and email address? I do!

After reviewing the details of the prescription with me Dr. Blanco passed it over, along with a slip of paper that had the word “normal” written on it and explained that I would be charged for a “normal” visit.  He also gave me his business card with all of his contact information including his home telephone number, cell phone number and email address. Yes, that’s right his home telephone number!

With $100 in my pocket I made my way out to the front desk to pay my bill.  Dr. Blanco’s receptionist informed me the charge for this “normal” visit was just $16 USD. My prescriptions came to a total cost $11.70 USD.

Dr. Blanco spoke perfect english, his office and examining room resembled that of one in Canada.  He was efficient and professional and I felt at ease and very comfortable with him and the treatment plan he provided.

Many times Gord and I have been asked what the health care system is like in Nicaragua.  From the research we did before our move it wasn’t really a subject on our list of concerns.  My recent date with Dr. Blanco confirmed everything we learned through our research. Doctors, health care and medications are readily available and very affordable in Nicaragua. The care is comparable to what you’d receive in North America.

I suppose you may be wondering how I found this great doctor.  Well, he was referred to us by our landlord, Glenn. Glenn’s wife  Jeannie had Dr. Blanco perform emergency surgery to repair two strangulated intestines. In addition to Dr. Blanco, present during Jeannie’s surgery was an assistant surgeon, an anesthetist, a chief nurse and additional nursing care with 3 assistants and there was a nurse, awake by Jeannie’s bedside round the clock.

The $800 charge for this surgery covered the cost of the operating suite, Jeannie’s overnight stay, follow up for pre-release, follow up in Dr. Blanco’s office, a sonogram, an EKG and a follow up check up to to have her stitches removed.  Dr. Blanco even transported Jeannie from Granada to Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas in Managua (where the surgery was performed) in his own vehicle.

Based on these experiences I have say if you’re planning a trip to Nicaragua or making a permanent move here and are concerned about health care for you and your family (including your children) you shouldn’t be.

Family & friends if you’re concerned about my eye don’t be.  I’ve only used the drops twice and I’m feeling better already! 🙂

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